The city of West Lafayette working to use community food waste more efficiently

The city of West Lafayette testing the waters with a new food waste container.

Posted: Mar 8, 2019 7:09 PM

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — For the past 10 years West Lafayette has been using food waste from Purdue University's dining halls to create electricity, now the city is working to get the rest of the community involved.

The city partnered with Purdue Sustainability students to host an event earlier this March. There they handed out food waste bins to nearly 50 West Lafayette residents. The goal is to see the community's interest in food waste.

West Lafayette Utility Director David Henderson said 10 years ago, the city of West Lafayette made a decision that still holds a positive impact.

“10 years ago we had a large project to upgrade our digesters and when we did that we added the microturbines, all the gas handling equipment and a way to produce electricity originally from grease deliveries from grease haulers,” said Henderson.

Henderson said the grease digestion was successful so they decided to see how food waste would work.

“We just started taking food waste and kind of just dumped it into our receiving area in the tank and the consistency is kind of like coleslaw,” said Henderson. “It's ground up and it's like baby food for the digesters.”

The city uses food waste from Purdue's five dining halls. This has helped fuel nearly 20% of the treatment plant's electricity.

The city gave out food bins to collect food waste from residents to see if it'll be successful.

“It's on the counter top, you put your food waste as you're prepping food and have anything left over and then you can put it in the larger five-gallon bucket to take and drop off at the street department,” said Henderson.

The Street Department will be collecting food waste from these bins beginning Mar. 23, then it'll be taken to the West Lafayette Waste Water Treatment Plant. Henderson said recycling food waste has a positive ripple effect.

“We're taking something that would have went to landfill otherwise and turning it into energy to run the wastewater plant,” said Henderson. “Then the solids from the digester, after everything has been treated, go on farmland so we complete the circle.”

The event brought in more than 60 people. If the city collects enough waste, they'll look into the possibility of making the bins an option for more homes.

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